Have faith in this ‘Creed’

creed poster michael b jordan sylvester stalloneWhen I originally heard about Creed, I thought it represented one trip too many to the well of the Rocky legacy. Rocky Balboa, the sixth film, was a powerful, heartfelt film that book-ended the Rocky series with a quiet, but sweet note.

Do we really need a movie about the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed following in his father’s footsteps?

Yes, dammit, we do!

The film begins with a young Adonis Johnson in juvenile detention. After a fight, he’s locked up in a cell. He is visited by a woman, who Adonis, along with the audience, learn is Mary Ann Creed, the widow of Apollo Creed. Creed, we learn, had an affair, got Adonis’ mother pregnant, and then died in his match with Ivan Drago before Adonis’ birth. Mary Ann takes young Adonis into her home. Adonis grows up, but finds life in a nine-to-five office job to be unsatisfying.

He leaves his cozy home in Los Angeles and moves to Philadelphia. It is there he tracks down Rocky Balboa, asking him to train him. Balboa politely refuses, but Adonis is persistent. Eventually, Rocky, who seems to have given up on life after the death of his wife Adrian and his brother-in-law Paulie, begins training the young man.

Creed is about fighting for what you want in life. Adonis is fighting a life of privilege that his father’s name gives him. He struggles to become a fighter on his own terms, without the Creed name attached. Michael B. Jordan (Chronicle, Fantastic Four) shines in his portrayal of Adonis. He’s likable, even when he acts like a jerk. He’s flawed, yet has a determination to succeed.

Rocky Balboa has his struggles too, with Stallone giving an Oscar-worthy performance as an old fighter ready to give up on life. Stallone knows this character and it shows. There are scenes where the sadness in Rocky’s eyes betray the tough-guy exterior. And the movie focuses much of its time on the developing relationship between Rocky and Adonis. Rocky is not simply shoehorned into the script to make it a Rocky film.

The supporting cast is excellent. Tessa Thomson plays Bianca, Adonis’ downstairs neighbor, who plays her music too loud. She is Adonis’ Adrian, but a much more assertive, confident woman. She too has a fight in her life as she is progressively losing her hearing, which makes being a musician a challenge.

And then there’s Phylicia Rashad. She only has a few scene in the movie as Mary Ann Creed, but it’s great to see her again so many decades after The Cosby Show. She too fights with her feelings over Adonis entering the boxing ring, fearing the loss of another loved one.

Director and co-writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) brings a strong visual style with a focus on the characters. Coogler knows there are aspects of the Rocky movies that work, and he brings those to the forefront, adding his own ideas to the mix. The film’s runtime is 133, minutes. It felt much shorter. Coogler knows when to give his characters some breathing room to grow and when to have some action.

Because, honestly, I really enjoyed these characters, in and out of the ring. I cared about Adonis’ struggle. I wanted to see Rocky get out of his funk. I wanted to see Adonis and Bianca grow as a couple. By the fight at the end of the film, I was fully invested in the lives of these people. Creed is excellent, better than it had any right to be.

©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

 

Presenting Infecto!

infectoImmunize Nevada is a “coalition of individual, business and organization partners committed to improving and protecting the health of children, teens, adults & seniors in Nevada,” according to its website.

A friend of mine on Facebook who works for the advertising agency handling Immunize Nevada, posted a picture of the blue germ above and offered a $25 Amazon gift card to whoever came up with the best name for this mascot, who will appear in videos and promotional materials.

I saw some of the entries on Facebook and, while very clever, were incredibly long or too tied into other well-known intellectual properties.

I came up with Infecto, which won, I believe because of its simplicity. I’m happy to help out.

So what did I spend my $25 Amazon gift card on? I picked up Shout Factory‘s excellent blu-rays of Escape from New York and the Roger Corman “classic” Death Race 2000.


©  Paul George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Wood hands at the Lear

Lear theater Reno wooden hands

The Lear Theater is about a block away from my apartment on 1st Street and Ralston in Reno, Nevada. After years of inactivity, I’m glad to see it finally being used.

When they put up these giant wooden hands, however, I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It looks like they are about ready to grope a giant set of wooden breasts.

Strange things amuse me. I’m a very, very lonely man.

Michael Lucido’s raccoon fort invades downtown Reno

Michael Lucido raccoon downtown renoLet me start this post by saying that I’m back in Reno and I couldn’t be happier. I spent the last ten months in Massachusetts and endured one of the worst winter’s on record. An aspect of Reno I missed is the City’s interest in local artists and businesses.

As I walked past 1st and Arlington, heading to get a cup of coffee, I saw this artwork by Mike Lucido, which he has titled Raccoon Fort. It’s a three-sided painting, apparently commissioned by the city of Reno, featured on a city power box (or whatever it is).

I vaguely recall Radcliff Raccoon’s political run for Reno’s Trash and Sewer Connoisseur.

Michael Lucido raccoon downtown reno 3My son, 15, and I walk past Raccoon Fort frequently, and it always gets a smile out of both of us. Lucido’s style, not that I’m an expert, is rooted in a cartoon style, reminding me a lot of old-school Warner Bros. — especially Tex Avery and Robert McKimson. And I can’t help but see some John Kricfalusi tossed into the mix. But then, I’m a John K. fan, so I think of Ren & Stimpy when I’m watching Interstellar.

This simple piece of art reminds me why I enjoy Reno.


©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Album Review: Hand.Cannot.Erase by Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson Hand.Cannot.Erase Released March 3, 2015 Kscope Music

Steven Wilson
Hand.Cannot.Erase
Released March 3, 2015
Kscope Music

Joyce Carol Vincent died when she was 38. She died with the television and heat running in her London flat. Two years later, her body was discovered, the heat and the television still running. It would be easy to write-off Joyce as some recluse, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. She had friends. She had family. Everyone just forgot her.

It is this sad story that Steven Wilson uses as his concept for Hand.Cannot.Erase, an album about loneliness, the fading of relationships, and the hope of getting together with family. While Wilson isn’t telling Joyce’s story, in the biographical sense, he is presenting the basics as little pieces of his protagonist’s life.

You can be someone’s child. You can be someone’s best friend. You can be someone’s sibling. And you can be forgotten. Maybe you want to reconnect with friends and family, but “the years pass by like trains.” That’s the message of Hand.Cannot.Erase.

It took me three weeks to find this album. Yes, I could have ordered it on Amazon, paid a few extra dollars for shipping, and had it in a few days. That’s not what I wanted though. I wanted to get that little thrill that comes from picking up something new and unknown, going home, and listening to it. I had to travel 20 miles to find and Björk’s new album Vulnicura.

The is a gorgeous sounding album. As a multi-instrumentalist, Wilson is amazing. Wilson boldly displays his influences, with 70s progressive rock taking center stage. While most of the music is very good, if not excellent, much of it also seems familiar. “3 Years Older” sounds like Wind and Wuthering era Genesis with a little Yes thrown into the mix. “Regret #9” features a Moog solo that sounds like something from Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. “Home Invasion” sounds like King Crimson. I found myself doing these comparisons a lot throughout the album.

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Ninet Tayeb. Photo courtesy http://www.ninetayeb.com/en/photos/11

Wilson’s voice is fine, but unspectacular. It doesn’t stand out like a Jon Anderson or John Wetton, but neither is it grating. Fortunately, the album features Ninet Tayeb’s lovely voice on “Routine,” and Katherine Jenkins does a great spoken word performance in “Perfect Life,” my favorite track on the album.

If it sounds like I didn’t care for Hand.Cannot.Erase, that’s not the case. The more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it. Rarely does musicianship of this level get a chance to shine. Wilson’s talented and, as a whole, this is a very good album. But I do think it is getting too much praise by reviewers. The songwriting is not always strong and many of the songs sound a little too much like Wison’s influences.

And I recommend it, especially if you enjoy ambitious music. Wilson isn’t making a pop album or a set of dance tunes. He’s presenting a concept album about a regular human being who died and was forgotten. In a musical era where it seems like we are in a race to the bottom, I have nothing but respect for what Steven Wilson is doing in Hand.Cannot.Erase, even when the end result is less than perfect.

Rating: 4 out of 5


©  Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Paul Anthony George and The Reno Signal with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.